Jamaica lost its fourth straight CONCACAF final round World Cup qualifier, 2-0, in Honduras Tuesday night and is virtually eliminated from the Brazil 2014 World Cup run. Meanwhile, the U. S. cruised to a 2-0 win over Panama in Seattle for its third straight victory on the same night, when host Mexico played to a goalless draw with Cost Rica. The U. S. is now in first place in the Hexagonal tournament, which qualifies three teams automatically for the World Cup, with the fourth place team to meet New Zealand in a home-and-away series for a final berth.
The games that crippled Jamaica’ effort were the recent home losses to the USA and Mexico. Against the USA, it was déjà vu at the National Stadium on Friday night, June 7. Jozy Altidore climbed above two Jamaican defenders to head home the USA’s first goal in the visitors’ 2-1 win, their first in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier at that stadium. Three days earlier it was Aldo De Negris, who rose from between two Jamaican defenders to head home Mexico’s lone goal in its first qualifying win in this six-team final round. Jamaica’s defense simply cannot deal with high crosses into the penalty area.
Jamaica’s weakness in dealing with high crosses is not unique to the Reggae Boyz, but a shortcoming among Caribbean players; what is surprising is that Jamaica has more English-born players in its squad now than ever before, and the English are known for their strength in heading the ball. The shutout in Honduras on Tuesday night means the other four games are futile exercises because with four games left, even if the maximum 12 points are attained, it won’t be enough to qualify Jamaica.
The Jamaica defenders repeatedly made parochial mistakes as defenders failed to be aware of where opposing forwards are to anticipate their runs into the box. On Altidore’s goal in the 30th minute, the Jamaican defender simply ducked under the ball and to give the American an easy header; it was a repeat of De Negris’ goal as the Mexican was uncontested in his effort. The situation should have been addressed after viewing the Mexico loss.
This Jamaican team seems to lack the fervor needed for national team wins, possibly because of a lack of a real connection between the English-born players and the Jamaican people. The intensity and fighting spirit that has marked past Reggae Boyz teams are missing. One of the advantages of using local players is that connection with the home fans and family drives motivation and intensity. There might have been too radical a change to foreign players after Jamaica’s disappointment in the Caribbean Championship last year.
There was no high pressure by the Jamaicans; no double teaming; and no fighting spirit. Jamaica simply did not work hard enough n the game. The U. S. controlled play for most of the contest; dominated at midfield and were able to keep the ball for long periods to control the tempo of the game. The U. S. at times looked as though it was the home team.
The U.S. meanwhile got a goal in each half from Altidore and Eddie Johnson, respectively, to hand Panama its first loss. In the Jamaica game, Brad Evans, in only his second start for the U.S. in recent years, scored the winner for the visitors in stoppage time when he was left unmarked in the penalty area and was able to control a low pass from Michael Bradley, turn to face the goal and shoot before the nearest defender could tackle, another poor defensive effort by the Reggae Boyz, who got their equalizer from header by late substitute Jermaine Beckford in the 89th minute.
The USA (3-1-0, 10 pts.) is atop the group, with Costa Rica (2-2-1, 8 pts), Mexico (1-5-0, 8) and Honduras (2- 2-1, 8) in a second place tie, then Panama (1-3-1, 6 pts) and Jamaica (0-2-4, 2).
Trailing 2-1 in an MLS Western Conference derby, forward Lamar Neagle inspired the Seattle Sounders to rally twice from deficits to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps, 3-2, last Saturday night in front of 53,679 fans at CenturyLink Park. Neagle assisted on the first goal to give Seattle the lead, but the whitecaps stormed back with two goals to take a 2-1 lead; Neagle created a penalty for the Tying goal and then latched onto an Obafemi Martins cross for the winner.
‘’That third goal was as well-taken a goal as you want to see,’’ Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “I was proud of our character in being able to come back. I thought we started off the game well and got the early goal. Then we sort of fell asleep right after we scored, which is a time you can’t fall asleep, and we took a goal.”
In other MLS games, Real Salt Lake got two goals from Olmes Garcia to beat host Los Angeles Galaxy at Home Depot Center, 3-1; Jamaican international Khari Stephenson scored the other goal for the winner and Landon Donovan tallied for the Galaxy. The Chicago Fire (3-7-3, 12 pts.) and the Portland Timbers (5-1-8, 23) drew, 2-2, and host New England Revolution (5-4-5, 20) and DC United (1-10-3, 6) played to a goalless draw.